Attendance of Church Members
It is important that the members of our churches should attend our camp meetings. The enemies of truth are many; and because our numbers are few, we should present as strong a front as possible. Individually you need the benefits of the meeting, and God calls upon you to number one in the ranks of truth.
Some will say: “It is expensive to travel, and it would be better for us to save the money and give it for the advancement of the work where it is so much needed.” Do not reason in this way; God calls upon you to take your place among the rank and file of His people. Strengthen the meeting all you possibly can by being present with your families. Put forth extra exertion to attend the gathering of God’s people.
Brethren and sisters, it would be far better for you to let your business suffer than to neglect the opportunity of hearing the message God has for you. Make no excuse that will keep you from gaining every spiritual advantage possible. You need every ray of light. You need to become qualified to give a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. You cannot afford to lose one such privilege.
Anciently the Lord instructed His people to assemble three times a year for His worship. To these holy convocations the children of Israel came, bringing to the house of God their tithes, their sin offerings, and their offerings of gratitude. They met to recount God’s mercies, to make known His wonderful works, and to offer praise and thanksgiving to His name. And they were to unite in the sacrificial service which pointed to Christ as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Thus they were to be preserved from the corrupting power of worldliness and idolatry. Faith and love and gratitude were to be kept alive in their hearts, and through their association together in this sacred service they were to be bound closer to God and to one another.
In the days of Christ these feasts were attended by vast multitudes of people from all lands; and had they been kept as God intended, in the spirit of true worship, the light of truth might through them have been given to all the nations of the world.
With those who lived at a distance from the tabernacle, more than a month of every year must have been occupied in attendance upon these holy convocations. The Lord saw that these gatherings were necessary for the spiritual life of His people. They needed to turn away from their worldly cares, to commune with God, and to contemplate unseen realities.
If the children of Israel needed the benefit of these holy convocations in their time, how much more do we need them in these last days of peril and conflict! And if the people of the world then needed the light which God had committed to His church, how much more do they need it now!
This is a time for everyone to come up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty. The forces of the enemy are strengthening, and as a people we are misrepresented. We desire the people to become acquainted with our doctrines and work. We want them to know what we are, and what we believe. We must find our way to their hearts. Let the army of the Lord be on the ground to represent the work and cause of God. Do not plead an excuse. The Lord has need of you. He does not do His work without the co-operation of the human agent. Go to the camp meeting, even though you have to make a sacrifice to do so. Go with a will to work. And make every effort to induce your friends to go, not in your place, but to go with you, to stand on the Lord’s side and obey His commandments. Help those who are interested to attend, if necessary providing them with food and lodging. Angels who are commissioned to minister to those who are heirs of salvation will accompany you. God will do great things for His people. He will bless every effort to honor His cause and advance His work.
Preparation of Heart
At these gatherings we must ever remember that two forces are at work. A battle unseen by human eyes is being waged. The army of the Lord is on the ground, seeking to save souls. Satan and his host are also at work, trying in every possible way to deceive and destroy. The Lord bids us: “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:11, 12. Day by day the battle goes on. If our eyes could be opened to see the good and evil agencies at work, there would be no trifling, no vanity, no jesting or joking. If all would put on the whole armor of God and fight manfully the battles of the Lord, victories would be gained that would cause the kingdom of darkness to tremble.
None of us should go to the camp meeting depending on the ministers or the Bible workers to make the meeting a blessing to us. God does not want His people to hang their weight on the minister. He does not want them to be weakened by depending on human beings for help. They are not to lean, like helpless children, upon someone else as a prop. As a steward of the grace of God, every church member should feel personal responsibility to have life and root in himself. Each one should feel that in a measure the success of the meeting depends upon him. Do not say: “I am not responsible. I shall have nothing to do in this meeting.” If you feel thus, you are giving Satan opportunity to work through you. He will crowd your mind with his thoughts, giving you something to do in his lines. Instead of gathering with Christ, you will scatter abroad.
The success of the meeting depends on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. For the outpouring of the Spirit every lover of the cause of truth should pray. And as far as lies in our power, we are to remove every hindrance to His working. The Spirit can never be poured out while variance and bitterness toward one another are cherished by the members of the church. Envy, jealousy, evil surmising, and evilspeaking are of Satan, and they effectually bar the way against the Holy Spirit’s working. Nothing else in this world is so dear to God as His church. Nothing is guarded by Him with such jealous care. Nothing so offends God as an act that injures the influence of those who are doing His service. He will call to account all who aid Satan in his work of criticizing and discouraging.
Those who are destitute of sympathy, tenderness, and love cannot do Christ’s work. Before the prophecy can be fulfilled, The weak shall be “as David,” and the house of David “as the angel of the Lord” (Zechariah 12:8), the children of God must put away every thought of suspicion in regard to their brethren. Heart must beat in unison with heart. Christian benevolence and brotherly love must be far more abundantly shown. The words are ringing in my ears: “Draw together, draw together.” The solemn, sacred truth for this time is to unify the people of God. The desire for pre-eminence must die. One subject of emulation must swallow up all others–who will most nearly resemble Christ in character? who will most entirely hide self in Jesus?
“Herein is My Father glorified,” Christ says, “that ye bear much fruit.” John 15:8. If there was ever a place where the believers should bear much fruit, it is at our camp meetings. At these meetings our acts, our words, our spirit, are marked, and our influence is as far-reaching as eternity.
Transformation of character is to be the testimony to the world of the indwelling love of Christ. The Lord expects His people to show that the redeeming power of grace can work upon the faulty character and cause it to develop in symmetry and abundant fruitfulness.
But in order for us to fulfill God’s purpose, there is a preparatory work to be done. The Lord bids us empty our hearts of the selfishness which is the root of alienation. He longs to pour upon us His Holy Spirit in rich measure, and He bids us clear the way by self-renunciation. When self is surrendered to God, our eyes will be opened to see the stumbling stones which our un-Christlikeness has placed in the way of others. All these God bids us remove. He says: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” James 5:16. Then we may have the assurance that David had when, after confession of his sin, he prayed: “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.” Psalm 51:12, 13.
When the grace of God reigns within, the soul will be surrounded with an atmosphere of faith and courage and Christlike love, an atmosphere invigorating to the spiritual life of all who inhale it. Then we can go to the camp meeting not merely to receive, but to impart. Everyone who is a partaker of Christ’s pardoning love, everyone who has been enlightened by the Spirit of God and converted to the truth, will feel that for these precious blessings he owes a debt to every soul with whom he comes in contact. Those who are humble in heart the Lord will use to reach souls whom the ordained ministers cannot approach. They will be moved to speak words which reveal the saving grace of Christ.
And in blessing others they will themselves be blessed. God gives us opportunity to impart grace, that He may refill us with increased grace. Hope and faith will strengthen as the agent for God works with the talents and facilities that God has provided. He will have a divine agency to work with him.
As far as possible our camp meetings should be wholly devoted to spiritual interests. They should not be made occasions for the transaction of business.
At the camp meetings, workers are gathered from all parts of the field, and it seems a favorable opportunity for considering business matters connected with the various branches of the work and for the training of workers in different lines. All these different interests are important, but when they have been attended to at a camp meeting, but little opportunity remains for dealing with the practical relation of truth to the soul. Ministers are diverted from their work of building up the children of God in the most holy faith, and the camp meeting does not meet the end for which it was appointed. Many meetings are conducted in which the larger number of the people have no interest, and if they could attend them all they would go away wearied instead of being refreshed and benefited. Many are disappointed at the failure of their expectation to receive help from the camp meeting. Those who came for enlightenment and strength return to their homes little better fitted to work in their families and churches than before attending the meeting.
Business matters should be attended to by those especially appointed for this work. And as far as possible they should be brought before the people at some other time than the camp meeting. Instruction in canvassing, in Sabbath school work, and in the details of tract and missionary work should be given in the home churches or in meetings specially appointed. The same principle applies to cooking schools. While these are all right in their place, they should not occupy the time of our camp meetings.
The presidents of conferences and the ministers should give themselves to the spiritual interests of the people and should therefore be excused from the mechanical labor attendant upon the meeting. The ministers should be ready to act as teachers and leaders in the work of the camp when occasion requires, but they should not be wearied out. They should feel refreshed and be in a cheerful frame of mind, for this is essential for the best good of the meeting. They should be able to speak words of cheer and courage, and to drop seeds of spiritual truth into the soil of honest hearts, to spring up and bear precious fruit.
The ministers should teach the people how to come to the Lord and how to lead others to Him. Methods must be adopted, plans must be carried out, whereby the standard shall be uplifted, and the people shall be taught how they may be purified from iniquity and elevated by adherence to pure and holy principles.
There must be time for heart searching, for soul culture. When the mind is occupied with matters of business, there must necessarily be a dearth of spiritual power. Personal piety, true faith, and heart holiness must be kept before the mind until the people realize their importance.
We must have the power of God in our camp meetings, or we shall not be able to prevail against the enemy of souls. Christ says: “Without Me ye can do nothing.”
Those who gather at camp meetings must be impressed with the fact that the object of the meetings is to attain to a higher Christian experience, to advance in the knowledge of God, to become strengthened with spiritual vigor; and unless we realize this, the meetings will to us be fruitless.
In camp meetings or tent efforts in or near the large cities there should be an abundance of ministerial help. In all our camp meetings the ministerial force should be as strong as possible. It is not wise to allow a constant strain upon one or two men. Under such a strain they become physically and mentally exhausted, and are unable to do the work appointed them. In order that they may have the strength required for the meetings, ministers should arrange beforehand to leave their fields of labor in safe hands, with those who, though they may not be able to preach, can carry forward the work from house to house. In God many can do valiantly, and for their labor will see returns the richness of which will surprise them.
In our large meetings a variety of gifts is needed. Fresh capabilities should be brought into the work. Opportunity must be given for the Holy Spirit to work on the mind. Then the truth will be presented with freshness and power.
In conducting the important interests of meetings near a large city, the co-operation of all the workers is essential. They should keep in the very atmosphere of the meetings, becoming acquainted with the people as they come in and go out, showing the utmost courtesy and kindness, and tender regard for their souls. They should be ready to speak to them in season and out of season, watching to win souls. Oh, that Christ’s workers would show one half as much vigilance as does Satan, who is always on the track of human beings, always wide awake, watching to lay some gin or snare for their destruction.
Let every succeeding day be made the most important day of labor. That day, that evening, may be the only opportunity which some soul may have to hear the warning message. Keep this ever in mind.
When ministers allow themselves to be called away from their work to visit the churches, not only do they exhaust their physical strength, but they rob themselves of the time needed for study and prayer and for silence before God in self-examination. Thus they are unfitted to do the work when and where it should be done.
There is nothing more needed in the work than the practical results of communion with God. We should show by our daily lives that we have peace and rest in God. His peace in the heart will shine forth in the countenance. It will give to the voice a persuasive power. Communion with God will impart a moral elevation to the character and to the entire course of action. Men will take knowledge of us, as of the first disciples, that we have been with Jesus. This will impart to the minister’s labors a power even greater than that which comes from the influence of his preaching. Of this power he must not allow himself to be deprived. Communion with God through prayer and the study of His word must not be neglected, for here is the source of his strength. No work for the church should take precedence of this.
We have too slight a hold upon God and upon eternal realities. If men will walk with God, He will hide them in the cleft of the Rock. Thus hidden, they can see God, even as Moses saw Him. With the power and light that God imparts, they can comprehend more and accomplish more than they had before deemed possible.
More ability, tact, and wisdom are needed in presenting the word and feeding the flock of God than many suppose. A dry, lifeless presentation of the truth belittles the most sacred message that God has given to men.
Those who teach the word must themselves live in hourly contact, in conscious, living communion with God. The principles of truth and righteousness and mercy must be within them. They must draw from the Fountain of all wisdom moral and intellectual power. Their hearts must be alive with the deep movings of the Spirit of God.
The source of all power is limitless; and if in your great need you seek for the Holy Spirit to work upon your own soul, if you shut yourself in with God, be assured that you will not come before the people dry and spiritless. Praying much and beholding Jesus, you will cease to exalt self. If you patiently exercise faith, trusting God implicitly, you will recognize the voice of Jesus saying: “Come up higher.”
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6 pp. 39-48